By Pete Chiodo
Bottom of the ninth, with her team down by a run, Allegheny senior Stephanie Fort was in the on-deck circle going through the normal routine — taking some swings, getting loose, getting focused.
Even while she was doing this, though, Fort had the suspicion that her efforts would not be necessary; not with Gators home run leader Sadie Stuart at the plate.
“I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to have to hit,” said Fort. “(Stuart) has been on it lately. She’s been hitting the crap out of the ball.”
Sure enough, the first pitch was delivered to Stuart and — whomp! — the sophomore parked it over the fence in left field. That scored herself and base-runner Belle Mazurik (who had reached with a one-out double) and handed the Lady Gators a 7-6, extra-inning victory over visiting Kenyon during the second game of a North Coast Athletic Conference doubleheader Sunday at Robertson Field.
“That was super clutch,” said Fort, one of three seniors celebrating Senior Day yesterday. “And it just shows the guts our team has.”
That win helped Allegheny (13-14, 5-3 NCAC) salvage a split with the visiting Ladies (18-11, 6-4), who won a 10-6 decision earlier in the day.
“(Kenyon) is causing a lot of drama in the conference right now, so getting one from them is a good feeling,” said Fort. “Wish we could have taken two, but ...”
That walk-off jack was Stuart’s second of the game two (she also had a solo shot in the third) and her fourth home run of the week. She also had a pair of dingers in a game against Fredonia State on Thursday. The second baseman now has a team-leading eight bombs on the season.
“Oh my gosh,” said Allegheny head coach Beth Curtiss, “(Stuart) has been coming through big for us this year.”
Allegheny had just fallen behind 6-5 in the top of the ninth on back-to-back two-out doubles by Kenyon’s Jamie Samuel and Chelsea Delaney
The Allegheny dugout didn’t seem worried, though.
“You know what,” said Curtiss, “we knew where we were at in the lineup — nine and then top. And all of those kids have been swinging really well. So they were all really positive coming into the bench. And one of my seniors, Steph (Fort), said ‘We’re getting this done.’”
Throughout yesterday’s second game the Gators had made it a habit of coming from behind.
Kenyon had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning. The Gators got it back in the second on an RBI single by Nicole Rodi.
Kenyon then struck for three runs in the third. But Allegheny commenced chipping away at that lead. First Stuart had her solo homer in the third to make it 4-2. Then Rodi and Sophia Katz (the team’s other two seniors) hit back-to-back run-scoring doubles in the fourth inning to tie the game.
“All of our seniors played their butts off,” said Curtiss. “All three of them did a fabulous job. Nic had a heck of a day at the plate. Sophie had a huge catch in the first game and had some hits. And Steph, I can’t say enough about her. ... She’s been absolutely unstoppable in the infield this year. I would dare say she’s the best shortstop in the conference. She’s phenomenal out there.”
Kenyon then took a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning on a solo homer by Samuel (who was 7-for-8 with five RBIs, three doubles and a home run in the twinbill).
However, the Lady Gators once again responded. This time it was a solo home run to straight-away center field by Halea Hayden in the bottom of the fifth.
So, even though her team trailed in the bottom of the ninth, after Mazurik hit her double Stuart knew her team had this one in the bag.
“It was a confidence booster for me, believing that it wasn’t all on me,” she said. “(Mazurik) did her part so it was my turn to do my part. I had really no question in my mind (that we were going to win it). It was just a matter of who was going to do it.”
Stuart was 3-for-5 in game two with two homers, a single, three RBIs and two runs scored. Mazurik, Rodi and Katrina George each had a pair of hits in the game, including a double apiece.
Allegheny had 13 total base hits in the game.
The pitching win belonged to freshman Hannah Olenik, who worked all nine innings, allowed six runs on 11 hits, walked two and struck out two.
“I’m really proud of my freshman, who threw nine innings of a ballgame,” said Curtiss. “That was probably the best I’ve seen her throw all year. That was a hard-fought win on her part.”
The Gators’ were not so responsive in Sunday’s opening game.
Allegheny got off to a hot start. In the first inning, Hayden and Caitlin Nealer both had RBI singles and Fort scored on an error to give AC a 3-0 lead.
However, Kenyon would eventually take the lead over and then pull away for the 10-6 final. The Ladies recorded 14 base hits in the outing and got a strong performance from pitcher Maddy Stark, who allowed six runs on six hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
The Gators did have two solo home runs in the game. George went yard in the fourth and Fort hit a homer in the seventh. But as long as those hits were, they weren’t enough to keep up with the Ladies.
“Kudos to (Kenyon), they swing the bat,” said Curtiss. “They score runs, not just on us but on everybody they’ve played. You just have to be able to make some of those big time plays and be able to get out of those innings. And when we needed to score runs in that first game, we didn’t.”